Entry & Exit Formalities
Nepal makes things easy for foreign travellers. Visas are available on arrival at the international airport in Kathmandu and at all land border crossings that are open to foreigners, as long as you have passport photos on hand (not necessary at Kathmandu airport) and can pay the visa fee in foreign currency (some crossings insist on payment in US dollars). Your passport must be valid for at least six months and you will need a whole free page for your visa.
All baggage is X-rayed on arrival and departure, though it’s a pretty haphazard process. In addition to the import and export of drugs, customs is concerned with the illegal export of antiques.
- You may not import Nepali rupees, and only nationals of Nepal and India may import Indian currency.
- There are no other restrictions on bringing in either cash or travellers cheques, but the amount taken out at departure should not exceed the amount brought in.
- Officially you should declare cash or travellers cheques in excess of US$2000, or the equivalent, but no one seems to bother with this, and it is laxly enforced.
Customs’ main concern is preventing the export of antique works of art, and with good reason: Nepal has been a particular victim of international art theft over the last 20 years.
It is very unlikely that souvenirs sold to travellers will be antique (despite the claims of the vendors), but if there is any doubt, they should be cleared and a certificate obtained from the Department of Archaeology in central Kathmandu’s National Archives building. If you visit the department between 10am and 1pm, you should be able to pick up a certificate by 5pm the same day. These controls also apply to the export of precious and semiprecious stones.
Tourist visas (15/30/90 days) are available on arrival for US$25/40/100; fill in your details online beforehand or on the spot, and bring US dollars cash.
All foreigners, except Indians, must have a visa. Nepali embassies and consulates overseas issue visas with no fuss but most people get one on the spot on arrival in Nepal, either at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport or at road borders at Nepalganj, Birganj/Raxaul Bazaar, Sunauli, Kakarbhitta, Mahendranagar, Dhangadhi and even the Rasuwagadhi checkpoint at the China/Tibetan border.
A Nepali visa is valid for entry for three to six months from the date of issue. Children aged under 10 require a visa but are not charged a visa fee. Citizens of South Asian countries (except India) and China need visas, but if you're only entering once in a calendar year, these are free.
To obtain a visa upon arrival by air in Nepal you must fill in an application form at one of the automatic registration machines, which will also take your digital photo. You can save some time by filling in the form beforehand online at www.online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/tourist-visa and uploading a digital photo, but you must do this less than 15 days before your arrival date.
A single-entry visa valid for 15/30/90 days costs US$25/40/100. At Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport the fee is payable in any major currency, but at land borders officials require payment in cash (US dollars); bring small bills.
SAARC countries can get a 30-day visa for free on arrival. Indian passport holders do not need a visa to enter Nepal.
Multiple-entry visas are useful if you are planning a side trip to Tibet, Bhutan or India and cost US$20 extra. You can change your single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office for the same US$20 fee.
Don’t overstay your visa. You can pay a fine of US$3 per day at the airport if you have overstayed less than 30 days (plus a US$2 per day visa extension fee), but it’s far better to get it all sorted out in advance at Kathmandu’s Central Immigration Office, as a delay could cause you to miss your flight.
It’s a good idea to keep a number of passport photos with your passport so they are immediately handy for trekking permits, visa applications and other official documents.
Visa extensions are available from immigration offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara only and cost a minimum US$30 (payable in rupees only) for a 15-day extension, plus US$2 per day after that. To extend for 30 days is US$50 and to extend a multiple-entry visa add on US$20. If you’ll be in Nepal for more than 60 days, you are better off getting a 90-day visa on arrival, rather than a 60-day visa plus an extension.
Every visa extension requires your passport, the fee, one photo and an application form that must be completed online first. One of the questions on this online application form asks for your Nepalese street address with house/building number. Hardly any street addresses have a building number so feel free to just make this up. Collect all these documents together before you join the queue; plenty of photo shops in Kathmandu and Pokhara can make a set of eight digital passport photos for around Rs 250.
Visa extensions are available the same day, normally within two hours, though some travellers have paid an extra Rs 300 fee to get their extensions within 10 minutes. For a fee, trekking and travel agencies can assist with the visa-extension process and save you the time and tedium of queuing.
You can extend a tourist visa up to a total stay of 150 days within a calendar year, though as you get close to that maximum you’ll have to provide an air ticket to show you’re leaving the country.
You can get up-to-date visa information at the website of the Department of Immigration (www.nepalimmigration.gov.np).
Feature: Indian Visas in Nepal
Many travellers now get their Indian visa online and fly to New Delhi. However, if you want to travel overland to India and don't already have a visa, you'll need to get one in Nepal and it’s not a straightforward process.
Visa applications must be made at the India Visa Service Centre, at the State Bank of India to the right of the embassy, not at the embassy itself. Applications are accepted only between 9.30am and midday, but it pays to get there earlier than 9.30am so as to be one of the first people in line. You will need a printed copy of the completed online visa form (https://indianvisaonline.gov.in), your passport, a copy of your passport info pages and a copy of your Nepalese visa. You will also need two 51mm x 51mm passport photos (this is larger than a standard passport photo, but most passport photo places in Kathmandu know about Indian visa regulations) and the visa fee. Five working days later you will need to return to the embassy between 9.30am and 1pm with your passport and visa payment receipt. At this point you will leave your passport with the embassy. The following working day you can collect your passport between 5pm and 5.30pm – hopefully with a shiny, new Indian tourist visa in it.
Visa fees for a six-month tourist visa vary depending on nationality, but for most nationalities it's Rs 4350. However, for Japanese passport holders it's a mere Rs 1050, for US passport holders the fee is Rs 6450 and for UK passport holders it's a whopping Rs 13,600.
Transit visas (Rs 2300 for most nationalities) are issued the same day, but start from the date of issue and are non-extendable.
Many remote rural areas, especially those close to the Tibet border, require a restricted area permit. This applies to those trekking in the Manaslu, Mustang, Nar-Phu, Tsum Valley, Dolpo, Humla and Kanchenjunga regions. Permits range from US$10 to US$500 per week and you will need the help of a registered trekking agency to secure one.